K STREET RISES FROM THE DEAD….I’m not sure what the right response is to this article in the New York Times today. Is it to laugh, to cry, or to say “Duh”? The subject is Congress’s recently passed ethics reforms:
It did not take long for lawmakers to find ways to keep having lobbyist-financed fun.
In just the last two months, lawmakers invited lobbyists to help pay for a catalog of outings: lavish birthday parties in a lawmaker’s honor ($1,000 a lobbyist), martinis and margaritas at Washington restaurants (at least $1,000), a California wine-tasting tour (all donors welcome), hunting and fishing trips (typically $5,000), weekend golf tournaments ($2,500 and up), a Presidents’ Day weekend at Disney World ($5,000), parties in South Beach in Miami ($5,000), concerts by the Who or Bob Seger ($2,500 for two seats), and even Broadway shows like “Mary Poppins” and “The Drowsy Chaperone” (also $2,500 for two).
….By barring lobbyists from mingling with a lawmaker or his staff for the cost of a steak dinner, the restrictions have stirred new demand for pricier tickets to social fund-raising events.
Lobbyists say that the rules might even increase the volume of contributions flowing to Congress from K Street, where many lobbying firms have their offices.
Apparently the con is an absurdly simple one. Lobbyists can’t pay for this stuff directly anymore, so instead they make a contribution to the congressman’s PAC and the PAC pays for it.
That this is happening is not surprising. That it’s so trivially easy is a little discouraging. Shouldn’t it take them at least a year or so to figure out how to game the system whenever new rules are put in place? Were they even trying this time around?
On the other hand, the Starbucks thing was pretty amusing, assuming it makes it past your outrage filter. As was the whining from the lobbyists about how expensive it’s getting to bribe lawmakers these days.